Congressman Ken Calvert Is An Embarrassment To California And Should Step Down
WARNING: Do not click on this if you are under 18
Ken Calvert, who represents a suburban Inland Empire district in southern Orange County and western Riverside County (CA-44), has been on DWT's radar for a very long time-- and yesterday's announcement of an FBI investigation of one of California's most incorrigible political crooks registered as more overdue than unexpected. A former real estate speculator, Calvert first came to the attention of non-political junkies when he was arrested-- a Republican "Family Values" hypocrite-- with a young woman he didn't know in a parked car, his pants down around his knees. (She turned out to be Lore Lorena Lindberg, a heroin addict with several prostitution convictions.) But even before that, Congressman Calvert was involved with a series shady real estate deals, the same pay for play scam that led to the conviction of his buddy and political ally Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and an international espionage and bribery caper in Saudi Arabia with convicted felons Cunningham and Thomas Kontogiannis.
In Calvert's case, it's hard to know where to start sorting through all the garbage. Probably the best place to start is by looking at his real estate dealings and how they have been impacted by his earmarks on the House Transportation Committee. To put it really simply, Calvert would make sure millions of taxpayer dollars were spent on building roads to worthless parcels of land that he and his shady business partner, a character named Woody Harpole, bought for pennies and sold, because of the government-financed improvements, for dollars. If you look at Calvert's and Harpole, Jr's real estate investments, it's impossible to not notice that they cluster around transportation projects that Calvert supported with taxpayer dollars-- like in a Corona area which has experienced a good deal of bubble-like growth because of a bus depot Calvert got funded. Calvert's firm, which his brother heads, bought a 4.3 acre parcel near the March Air Reserve Base and Calvert immediately got to work getting an $8 million freeway exchange built so he could sell the land for double what he paid for it. Same thing happened with a site they bought at Temescal Canyon Road near a proposed interchange at Cajalco and the I-15. Calvert, according to the L.A. Times profited handsomely for his blatant conflict of interest. Calvert snickers when reporters ask him about this stuff: "They haven't passed a law against investing yet."
Even for a speculator like Calvert, it was an unusually good deal.
During the time he owned the land, Calvert used the legislative process known as earmarking to secure $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles from the property, and an additional $1.5 million to support commercial development of the area around the airfield.
A map of Calvert's recent real estate holdings and those of his partner shows many of them near the transportation projects he has supported with federal appropriations. And improvements to the transportation infrastructure have contributed to the area's explosive growth, according to development experts.
...What sets Calvert's actions apart from the traditional efforts of lawmakers to bring federal dollars home to their districts is that some of the spending has gone for improvements near his private real estate ventures, and he has used earmarking to secure the tax dollars... He also has secured funds for a number of projects pushed by campaign contributors, including employees of the Washington lobbying firm of Copeland Lowery & Jacquez, his top political donor in the last election cycle.
But the most serious questions, ethics specialists say, involve Calvert's participation in real estate ventures in which his earmarks for highway and other improvements may have contributed to rising land values and created at least the appearance that he personally benefited.
The latest bit of malfeasance involves 4 acres Calvert and Harpole bought from the Jurupa Community Services District in 2006 for $1.2 million. The land was purchased as part of a sweetheart deal and was clearly done illegally, the district neither looking for competitive bids nor offering it to other state agencies. (The Riverside County Grand Jury has already ruled that Calvert's acquisition violated state law.) A predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, Mira Loma, wants to use the land as a community park and baseball field; Calvert is determined to turn it into mini-self-storage units. When Calvert came under scrutiny for the deal, he lied about it and claimed he was a silent partner. But, in the 2006 L.A. Times story linked above, about another fortuitous land sale of Calvert’s, Harpole was quoted that he had to consult with Calvert when investing Calvert’s money: "[O]f course I have to consult with him if we are looking at investing his money.” Harpole also said at the time, “I told him about one [deal] and he said, ‘No, I don’t think so.'" Calvert’s partnership negotiated an extended escrow period of up to 15 months which worked to Calvert’s benefit since at the time real estate experts argues that prices were rising 15 to 25 percent a year. Additionally, while the property was still in escrow, a higher offer came in-- and was rejected-- bolstering claims that the deal was done to help curry political favor with Calvert’s office. All this led to the Riverside County Grand Jury, in 2007, finding that the Jurupa Community Services District violated state law when it sold the land to Calvert and his partners without offering it to other local agencies first, including the Park District, which had shown interest in the land. The Jurupa Park District announced this summer that it would be forced to spend $1.7 million in 2009-2010 in expected legal costs tied to the Calvert land deal-- more tax dollars Calvert is costing the hard-pressed residents of Riverside County.
Calvert has always denied every single crime he's been involved in. Even with his penis clearly in plain view (according to the official police report) he told the arresting officer he and the prostitute were "just chatting." He claims all his perfectly routine real estate shenanigans are made to look nefarious because of political vendettas against him. Last year, the voters in CA-44 seemed to be having second thoughts about Calvert, who eked out a razor thin victory against a little-known-- and massively outspent-- Bill Hedrick, 51-49%. Hedrick spent $191,461 or $1.48 per vote he received. Calvert spent $1,150,432-- $8.85 per vote! Calvert fought against this past March's Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, even though over 16,000 families have been foreclosed on in his district and even though the 4 year projection rate for CA-44 is for over 53,400 families to lose their homes. Now, with Calvert adamantly opposing meaningful health care reform against the wishes of his constituents (146,000 of whom have no health insurance coverage), it is likely that the latest round of scandals will be the final nail in the coffin of his political career. Bill Hedrick, in fact, is running against him again. Unfortunately, the big lobbyists and corporate special interests who are so well served by Calvert's ethics-free operations have opened the funding gates wide for him again and he's already up $773,633 to Hedrick's $122,672.